Sunday, February 26, 2012

R.I.P. - Lt. Col. John D. Loftis

DOD Identifies Air Force Casualty

            The Department of Defense announced today the death of an airman who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Lt. Col. John D. Loftis, 44, of Paducah, Ky.,

died Feb. 25 from wounds received during an attack at the Interior Ministry, Kabul, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to the 866th Air Expeditionary Squadron, Kabul, Afghanistan.

            For more information media may contact the Air Force Special Operations Command public affairs office at 850-884-8900.


He served as a space and missile officer who became a regional affairs strategist in 2008. He entered the Air Force in 1996, receiving his commission through Officer Training School.
Prior to deploying in March 2011, he had been assigned to the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School, Air Force Special Operations Training Center, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Loftis was deployed in support of OPERATION Enduring Freedom and working in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Ministry of the Interior with the AfPak Hands program as the chief plans advisor. The AfPak Hands program stood up in September 2009 to develop a cadre of specially trained U.S. servicemembers skilled in Afghan and Pakistani culture and language.
Lt Col Loftis was previously awarded the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal.

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Blast kills four, wounds nine in Iraqi market

15 September 2008 Balad Ruz bombing
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BAGHDAD, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- An explosion ripped through a shop at a popular market in eastern Iraq Sunday evening, leaving four dead and nine injured, a local police source said.

The blast, believed to be caused by a bomb, destroyed the shop and levelled two adjacent shops in a town located in Diyala province, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Three children and one woman were among the wounded, he added.

Iraqi security forces have cordoned off the area and carried out investigations.

Diyala, which borders Iran, has been plagued by violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Iraq has seen an uptick of violence in recent weeks as a result of reignited Sunni-Shia conflict.
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Six militants killed in Khyber Agency, Pakistan

PESHAWAR: Six militants were killed and numerous of their hideouts were destroyed in an aerial operation in Bara subdivision of Khyber Agency on Sunday, confirmed officials.

After a week of turmoil in Khyber Agency in which three security officials were killed, three others injured and numerous clashes took place between the local peace committee and the militants, this morning gunship helicopters targeted militant hideouts in the Naray Baba area of Bara.

“At least six militants were killed and numerous of their hideouts were destroyed,” said an official from the area.

The Tirah valley of Khyber Agency is considered to be the strong hold of Lashkar-e-Islam and the security forces launched an operation against the banned organisation. The operation in the area has been continuing for almost three years now.

The officials said that the investigation into many suicide attacks and bomb blasts that have claimed innocent lives have been traced back to the tribal belt of Khyber.

On Saturday, a stray shell fired from an unknown location destroyed a house and killed three children of a single family while leaving four women injured.

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Three Afghan army soldiers injured in Kapisa province

According to local authorities in eastern Afghanistan, at least 3 Afghan National Army soldiers were injured following an Improvised Explosive Device explosion in eastern Kapisa province.

A spokesman for provincial security commandment Asadullah Hamidi confirming the report said, the incident took place at the southern regions of Tagab district.

Mr. Hamidi further added, at least 3 suspected militants were detained in connection to the incident.

No group including the Taliban militants have so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

Local officials blame the Taliban group for such incidents as the Taliban militants frequently use roadside Improvised Explosive Device to target Afghan and coalition security forces.

In the meantime officials in eastern Kunar province announced, an Afghan High Peace Council member who was kidnapped by armed militants was freed on Sunday.

Provincial governor for eastern Kunar province Syed Fazlullah Wahidi said, Mawlawi Shafiullah Shafi was kidnapped by militants around 1 month ago at the Asmar district.

According to Mawlai Shafiullah he was kidnapped by the militants while he was attending peace talks with the insurgents at Asmar district.

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Afghan intel official who killed 2 US officers linked to Pakistani madrassa

Map of Pakistan
Map of Pakistan (Photo credit: Omer Wazir)

Some details are emerging about the murder of two US Army officers in the Afghan Interior Ministry yesterday. CNN reports that the shooter, a police intelligence sergeant, attended a madrassa, or religious school, in Pakistan.
The man who shot two military officers Saturday at the interior ministry was a junior intelligence officer with ties to a Pakistani religious school, an Afghan counter-terrorism official said. The gunman was identified as Abdul Saboor, an employee in the ministry's intelligence department, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
"We believe it was 100% linked to the Quran burning because of the religious background of this junior officer. He spent two months in a Pakistani madrassa," the official said.
The interior ministry confirmed that the gunman in Saturday's shooting is believed to be one of its employees, whose "whereabouts are unknown." Police "are making every effort to find him as soon as possible," the ministry said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting Saturday. A Taliban spokesman gave the same first name for the shooter that the counter-terrorism official gave Sunday. But the official did not say whether the alleged gunman was affiliated with the Taliban.
The Guardian identified the Afghan shooter as an "ethnic Tajik" whose full name is Abdul Saboor Salangi, from the the Salang district in Kunduz province. He shot the two US officers in the back of the head.
Abdul Saboor Salangi had been an ordinary policeman with a history of absenteeism who dropped out of the force and spent some time in Pakistan before returning to another police job with the ministry, said a security source who asked not to be named. Police raided his home in a small village in the southern part of Salang district, where he lived with his mother, wife and two children.
"When the police first sent a delegation into his house for the investigation, they didn't tell her why, so she thought her son had died and couldn't stop crying," said the Salang district governor, Abdulshakur Qudosi.
The two officers, reported to be a colonel and a major, were found dead in a room inside the interior ministry that was used only by foreigners and secured with combination locks. They had been shot in the back of the head, the Associated Press reported.
Afghan security personnel have killed four US soldiers and an Albanian soldier in separate attacks over the past week [see Threat Matrix report, Afghan troops kill 2 US Army officers in Kabul, for more details].

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Somali Islamist group formally declares allegiance to Shabaab, al Qaeda

A senior Islamist commander and weapons smuggler in northern Somalia who has long been tied to Shabaab has officially declared allegiance to the terror group and al Qaeda.

The merger was confirmed by Shabaab at its official Twitter account, HSM Press Office [Harakat Al Shabaab Al Mujahideen Press Office], as well as with a radio statement by a senior Islamist leader from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia.

"Following the London Conference, the Mujahideen in Galgala area of Puntland have officially become part of Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen," the first tweet from HSM Press Office declared.

"The Mujahideen in Northern #Somalia have now formally pledged allegiance to Sh. Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, Emir of Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen," it continued.

"Apart from reigning over the Golis Mountain range, Mujahideen control several towns/villages surrounding Bosaaso, commercial hub of Puntland," HSM Press Office said.

"The Mujahideen of Somalia now dominate the vast stretch of mountainous terrains of the North as well as the fertile plains of the South," HSM Press Office boasted, while ignoring the fact that Shabaab fighters abandoned the strategic western city of Baidoa to advancing Ethiopian and Somali troops just this week.

HSM Press Office's announcement was paired with a statement from a spokesman for Sheikh Mohammed Said Atom, who leads a large group of Islamist fighters in Puntland. Yasin Khalid Osman 'Yasin Kilwe,' who leads a group of fighters under Atom and serves as his spokesman, said the group "joined" with Shabaab and welcomed the merger with al Qaeda, according to Somalia Report. Osman's statement was broadcast on Al-Andalus, Shabaab's official radio station.

"I swear allegiance and adherence to the Amir of Harakat Shabab al Mujahidin Sheikh Muktar Abu Zubayr," said Osman, who described himself as the "Emir of the mujahidin in Golis mountains." Osman

"I want to praise God for the unity of our Shabaab brothers with al Qaeda fighters," Osman continued, according to Somalia Report. "This is a great victory for the all mujahideen in the world, marking the unity of Muslim jihadists in the world for the first time in recent years. I want to declare today that we are joined with our al Shabaab brothers who are devoted to the Jihad in Somalia. On behalf of the mujahideen fighters in Galgala mountains, I want to confirm to you that we shall obey the orders of the leader of the Shabaab mujahideen, Sheikh Muktar Abu Zubayr who will also be our leader."
Osman also said that for the northern Somali jihadists, "this is the first step toward the start of proper solidarity with all Muslim jihadists in the world."
Atom's pledge of fealty takes place just two weeks after Shabaab announced its official merger with a Qaeda. The two terror groups have been intricately linked for years, and the announcement of the merger was merely the formal acknowledgment of the ties between the two groups. Several days later, the Muslim Youth Center in Kenya announced its merger with Shabaab and al Qaeda East Africa.

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al-Qaida militants killed in battles with Yemeni army forces

Yemen division 2011-10-23
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ADEN, Yemen, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- Intensive gun battles flared up on Sunday morning between Yemeni army forces and al-Qaida militants in the southern province of Abyan, killing at least nine militants, a security official said.

The fierce gun battles raged between two barracks of the 111st Armored Army Brigade and al-Qaida militants along Zinjibar's main road, killing at least nine members of the terrorist group, the local security official said on condition of anonymity.

The heavy fighting began shortly after dawn across Abyan province, with shoulder-held rocket launchers, Katyusha shells, mortarsand heavy machine-guns being used, the official said.

In Sunday's fighting, four of the military's armored vehicles were set ablaze, according to a soldier who was involved in the gun fights.

There was no immediate report of casualty available among the army forces.

On Saturday, police officers said that an al-Qaida suicide bomber killed at least 32 soldiers of elite Republican Guard forces and injured dozens of others after he detonated his explosives-laden vehicle at the main gate of the presidential palace in the country's southeastern province of Hadramout.

The suicide bombing attack happened just several hours after the newly elected President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took the constitutional oath at the parliament, after a landmark vote this week initiated in a Gulf-brokered power transfer deal.

Since late January 2011, when protests erupted against former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, militants of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have been working to bolster their presence in the country's remote regions.

The group has taken control of several swathes and towns across the restive southern provinces, as the Yemeni government engaged in fierce clashes with the militants over the past several months, leaving hundreds of people killed.

The AQAP, entrenching itself mainly in Yemen's southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa, is on the terrorist list of the United States, which considers it as an increasing threat to its national security.
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Suicide bomber attacks Nigeria church

At least three worshippers killed and 10 others wounded in Jos in the latest attack on a Christian target.

A suicide car bomber has killed at least three people in an attack on a major church in central Nigeria, church officials say.

The bomber hit the main headquarters of the Church of Christ in the central city of Jos, the capital of Plateau state, on Sunday after driving a car laden with explosives into the church, the officials said.
The bomber is believed to have died in the attack.
"We were in the church during the time of worship and a suicide bomber forced himself into through the gate, into the church and the bomb exploded," John Haruna, the reverend of the Church of Christ in Nigeria (COCIN), told the AFP news agency.
Another church member, who is also an activist with the Christian human rights organisation Stefanos Foundation, gave a similar account.

"It was suicide bomber, he drove his car into the church, approaching the pulpit and it exploded. Three members of the church died and 10 are injured," Mark Lipdo said.
He said pieces of human flesh littered the church premises.

Earlier, Pam Ayuba, spokesman for Plateau state, said the attack happened during the church's early service, which was packed with worshippers. He did not give details about the number of people injured.

Flashpoint city

Military and police officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Jos has experienced hundreds of deaths in ethnic and religious violence in recent years. It also has been targeted by a radical Islamist group known as Boko Haram.

Sunday's attack came days after at least 19 people were killed after suspected Boko Haram attackers carried out several attacks in the cities of Gombe and Kano, authorities say.

Orubebe Ghandi Ebikeme, the local police commissioner in Gombe, said that the police headquarters in the provincial capital had been targeted in the attack late on Friday evening.
No group claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack, but previous blasts have been blamed on Boko Haram.
The group is waging an increasingly violent campaign against Nigeria's weak central government in its quest to enact Islamic law, free its detained members and avenge Muslim deaths in the nation.
Boko Haram opposes Western education and lifestyle in Africa's most populous nation, which is divided between the predominantly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south.

from Al-Jazeera
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7 U.S. Soldiers wounded in attack on NATO base in Afghanistan

The location of Kunduz Province within Afghanistan
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Seven U.S. military trainers were wounded on Sunday when protesters in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan threw a grenade at their base, provincial police chief Samihullah Qatra told reporters.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed there had been an explosion outside one of its bases in northern Afghanistan, but declined to comment on casualties.

"The demonstrators hurled a hand grenade at US special forces base in Imam Sahib city of Kunduz province -- as a result seven US special forces were wounded," Kunduz police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini told the AFP news agency.
more details later...
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Feb.26., 2012. - ISAF Joint Command Morning Operational Update

KABUL, Afghanistan (Feb. 26) – An Afghan and coalition security force captured a Taliban leader during an operation in Maiwand district, Kandahar province, today.

The leader controlled and equipped multiple insurgent cells as well as planned their attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

The security force killed one insurgent and detained two others during the operation.

In other International Security Assistance Force news throughout Afghanistan:

An Afghan and coalition security force captured a Taliban leader during an operation in Kunduz district, Kunduz province, today. The leader managed a local insurgent network and was involved in multiple attacks against Afghan civilians and security forces.

In Chahar Bolak district, Balkh province, an Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation in search of a Taliban leader today. The leader orchestrates attacks and suicide bombings in the area. Two suspected insurgents were detained during the operation.

An Afghan and coalition security force captured a Taliban leader during an operation in Andar district, Ghazni province, today. The Taliban commander conducted bombings against Afghan civilians and security forces in the province. Two additional insurgents were detained.

In Mohammad Agha district, Logar province, an Afghan and coalition security force captured a Haqqani commander during an operation today. The commander facilitated suicide attacks and conducted bombings Kabul province.

Finally, an Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation in search of a Taliban leader in Nerkh district, Wardak province, today. The leader coordinates attacks, as well as distributes weapons and supplies to insurgents in the district. Multiple suspected insurgents were detained as a result of the operation.
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Hood soldier dies of gunshot wound

English: 479th Field Artillery Brigade Distinc...
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MISSOULA, Mont. — The name of a soldier who died of a gunshot wound while stationed at Ford Hood in Texas has been released.

Sgt. 1st Class Christopher David Atkinson, 33, of Lakeside died Thursday in Temple, Texas, after sustaining the gunshot wound Monday at Fort Hood, post officials said.

Officials say the shooting remains under investigation.

Atkinson deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom from December 2005 to November 2006 and from June 2008 to May 2009, according to The Missoulian of Missoula.

Atkinson received numerous awards and decorations, including a Bronze Star.

Atkinson joined the Army in 1998. Since September 2009, he had been assigned to 1st Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 479th Field Artillery Brigade.

from ARMYTimes

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